Mayor, 6 Others Involved in Killing of Congressman, Philippine Police Say

Karl Romano and Luis Liwanag
190103-PH-violence-1000.jpg Protesters display placards during a rally against violence in suburban Quezon City, northeast of Manila, Nov. 23, 2018.

Philippine police filed murder charges against a mayor and six others on Thursday for their alleged involvement in the contract killing of a congressman and a police officer last month.

Director General Oscar Albayalde, the national police chief, accused Daraga town Mayor Carlwyn Baldo of using a gun-for-hire syndicate in the fatal shooting of Rep. Rodel Batocabe and a police bodyguard at a gift giving-ceremony for the elderly in eastern Albay province three days before Christmas.

“It appears that it was Mayor Baldo who paid them to kill Rep. Batocabe,” Albayalde told a news conference, citing a police investigation that largely drew on the testimony of one of the mayor’s aides who was caught last Sunday. “We will do everything to arrest the suspects.”

Batocabe, 52, became the highest-ranking public official slain so far in a rash of killings in the lead up to the May vote, when the country is to elect 12 senators, the entire 297-member House of Representatives and thousands of other local officials.

“From all indications as revealed by the suspects and witnesses, and physical evidence gathered by the police, the group that killed Batocabe and Diaz is a private armed group employed by the mayor that is involved in contract killing as a gun-for-hire syndicate,” Albayalde said.

Baldo’s aide, identified by police as Christopher Cabrera, was arrested last Sunday. Under interrogation, Cabrera told police that the mayor put up a 5 million peso fund (about U.S. $95,000) for the lawmaker’s assassination, Albayalde said.

The hitmen were composed of former soldiers and paramilitary personnel employed by Baldo, Albayalde added.

The plot, Albayalde said, was hatched in August, about the time that Batocabe first announced plans to go against Baldo in the coming polls. He said Baldo paid Cabrera an initial amount to purchase weapons and motorcycles to be used in the killing.

He said the case is considered closed, adding: “This is a victory of the rule of law in this country.”

Baldo denies allegations

Baldo, in a statement, denied the accusation against him, and said he would face the charges in court.

“I assert my innocence. Let us not forget that while I am being used as a convenient scapegoat, those who are truly responsible for the crime remain free and blameless,” he said. “I did not order the deaths of anyone.”

He said his lawyers had asked him to avoid discussing the case.

Albayalde said double murder and multiple frustrated homicide charges had been filed against Baldo and six others.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo lauded the efforts of police in the “early and swift conclusion” of Batocabe’s killing.

“This is a breakthrough in the pursuit of justice for the victims and their families,” Panelo said, adding that the suspects would be prosecuted “for the heinous crime without delay.”

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato City contributed to this report.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.